Balance to avoid 'junk mail' label

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The majority of Americans do not mind advertising mail. Studies show that 70 percent of the U.S. population prefers direct mail to e-mail or phone calls. However, people only like receiving direct mail that is relevant to them and their purchasing habits.

Once relevant or targeted mail is outweighed by unsolicited direct mail, consumers begin to complain. The recent introduction of do-not-mail bills in more than 10 states indicates that many consumers have reached a breaking point and have taken the issue to their legislators.

The three most common complaints about unsolicited direct mail are:

1. "I keep getting mail even after I've asked to be taken off mailing lists." Junk mailers are the companies that ignore customers' requests to reduce or eliminate mailings, or do not subscribe to the Direct Marketing Association's mail preference do-not-mail list.

2. "Companies I do business with sell my name to others, who mail me way too much." This is usually caused by selling the names of customers who have opted-out of mailings. Or, a company buys names and does not match them to its own do-not-mail list or the DMA do-not-mail list.

3. "The advertising mail I get does not interest me." The old-fashioned way of direct mail ­­­is to mail in bulk regardless of audience. Unfortunately, this practice is damaging the industry. The best direct mailers have proven it is possible to mail less and get higher responses through optimizing contact strategy.

Mailers must do a better job of understanding customers' needs and buying habits. By doing targeted mailings, it is less likely that customers will view the piece as unsolicited direct mail.

Next comes cleaning the current mailing list. The postage increase, upcoming changes to U.S. Postal Service mailing certification requirements and move update regulations are the result of the USPS trying to reduce undeliverable mail. Tools are available to clean mailing lists, making it easier to identify those on do-not-mail lists and eliminate duplicates.

The DMA maintains a registry for consumers who do not want to receive advertising mail. Companies should use this list and respect the wishes of consumers.

Finally, educate legislators and the public concerning the impact do-not-mail bills would have on a state's economic development. The direct mail industry accounts for billions of dollars in revenue and employment. Recently, Arkansas, Maryland, Colorado and Montana withdrew do-not-mail bills after representatives from the direct mail, paper and printing industries informed legislators of potential threats of lost revenue and lower employment rates.

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